Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Camera Thoughts - RED vs. 5D Mark II Techie Geekery

So the independent filmmaking world has been totally changed by the DSLR video revolution and I think for the better, but we went with the RED anyway - here's a little blogg-age about what happened.

A little disclaimer: I'm not an expert on these techie things - I think I know enough to get by, and please feel free to tell me if I'm wrong on anything - I know you techie types like doing that. ;)

For those of you who haven't heard this whole deal: Canon came out with a camera last year, I think last year, called the 5D, it's DSLR or "Digital Single Lens Reflective" and it had a little feature in there where you had the option to shoot high definition video.

Side note: I own this camera for my still photography, so it seemed like the cheapest way to go, use my camera to shoot the short...

So, Canon admits that they put the video capability on there mostly for photo journalists at first as an afterthought (not sure how true that is), so some journalist could shoot off some video on the fly in a gun battle or something. At first the controls were all automatic and you had very little options, but it looked REALLY GOOD and people starting using their cameras to shoot films - sometimes shooting with the lens halfway in the mount of the camera body so they could manually adjust the aperture. Pretty crazy.

Here's the video that made shockwaves, so I've been told.


I think this is a pretty lame short - pretty people running around and looking pouty? He's late to pick her up, even with the helicopter? It was all a dream, but he still has to run out the door at the end? And who buys a girl like that sunflowers...come on man! - But it LOOKS amazing, and this video got a lot of people super jazzed and out shooting. Maybe cause we all said, "I can do better than that." This Youtube link isn't in HD though, but you get the idea. If you really care you can search the web for his website. But you won't. Ha.

Eventually, Canon was kind enough to release a firmware update so that the camera is now a full functioning HD video camera that can rival the RED. Onto that now...

So those of you who haven't heard of the RED before: It's the camera that rocked the filmmaking world about 3 or 4 years ago. It's a SUPER high definition video camera that was made from the ground up to be friendly to film crews. It is adaptable to lots of different lenses it's been used to shoot lots of feature films and the major thing is it is Higher Def than High Def. What!? Higher than High Def?!

So high def can be broken down in to Pixels right? If any of you have bought a T.V. in the past couple years you've probably come across the Scruffy Dude whining at you in Best Buy, "Oh, man, you just got to get 1080p, you just got to. Only way bro."

And as a new owner of a BlueRay / H.D.T.V. combo - yeah, listen to Scruffy Dude. If you are a visual junkie like me, at least. Oh, man - watching "Contact" will change your life: "They should have sent a poet..." Damn straight.

Sorry - the reason I bring all this up, is 'cause high def is 1920 x 1080 - that's pixels vertical by pixels horizontal, or visa versa - whatever! That's the size of High Def video, right? But the RED captures images at over 4000 pixels across by 2000-something vertical, so there isn't even anyway to display the amount of information you capture with the RED - the technology hasn't caught up to display something like that yet! There is so much information there. They are HUGE files!

So, Rider and Alex and I had many discussions about whether or not to shoot with the 5D DSLR or shoot with the RED.

We ended up having a camera test at Movieola with our Director of Photography, Yoram Astrakhan and Producer Mong Chan to play with a DSLR - here's a little clip:

It's mostly making Alex dance around in front of the camera. Which was fun. The guys at Movieola were super cool and patient with us.

During our test we discovered that there was no easy way to have a monitor off the camera, a "video village" for us to watch the filming. Also there isn't a viewfinder, which Yoram wasn't too happy about. You have to look at the back of the camera to check focus - not super reliable...hmm, couple strikes for the DSLR...

The topper was that the cost wasn't that much of a difference - we still had to rent lenses' and a rig for my 5D so it was only a couple hundred bucks more to go with the RED.

So that's what we did and now we are dealing with these HUGE files, but I think it was worth it. Our two 1st Assistant Camera men, Gunnar and Steve knew the RED well and made it all work smoothly - thanks guys.

I think a major part of it too was we realized as this project started to come together that we had a lot of great stuff going for us, the makeup and special effects and wardrobe were looking amazing, the casting and quality of the actors we had - the kick ass crew jumping on board and great locations - it just seemed that we should go with a system that had some history behind it of quality and reliability. And that was with the RED.

Sorry, little camera of mine.

Our next adventure in film making will be with the 5D, I'm sure.

(Whisper) My camera's in the room with me right now so I have to say that...


  1. Hi Strong brothers.

    I too am a part of the web content world, and I have plenty of friends who use the 5D as their primary camera for filming (for web). And if I ever fall into a chunk of change, I'll be getting one for myself as well.

    Personally I really prefer the 5D to the RED, for lots of reasons which probably aren't really worth getting into. Other than I think for the price of the 5D (or the 7D for that matter) you get really a negligible difference from the RED if your main goal is web presentation. Like you mention the RED overshoot, resolution wise, and in my opinion your money is best spent on a 5D and a slew of lenses.

    In regards to your qualms about the 5D not being able to output to video village. I've seen it done plenty of times. There is the mini HDMI port on the side of the camera and you can even split it off into two signals so you can have a mounted monitor on the camera (since it seems you're using a lens mount anyways) and then a signal to video village as well.

    Take a look at this forum thread http://www.cinema5d.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3848&start=20

    I hope that helps.

    Just wanted to chime in and offer some thoughts about the situation, since it seems like we're all in this together, when it comes to film making and the new world of digital web content.

    Best of luck to you both.

    Andrew Seely

  2. Thanks so much Andrew! Great comment and that Cinema 5D forum is sweet.

    Checked out your show "Melts In Your Pocket" - very cool man! Sounds like a fun job. And looks like you're rocking the web world.

    And the topper is you worked on The Guild, buddy - you're killing me. Love that show, Felicia Day and that crew are the champs - total inspiration for making it happen.

    Rock on and be sure to keep us updated!